Food Angels have filled about 12,500 tummies
Inspired by a community leadership class, the backpack food program has been curbing kids' hunger on weekends since the 2015-16 school year.
The Food Angels program is now in its sixth year of stuffing Park Rapids students’ backpacks with meals to take home for the weekend.
Nicole Brandt, a first grade teacher at Century School, said that since the 2015-16 school year, 12,449 Food Angels bags have been handed out. This school year, she said, 64 students are receiving food bags for the weekend through Food Angels.
“This program has been such a blessing for those kiddos who need the weekend meals,” said Brandt.
Brain Behrens with Thrivent Financial said the program is for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade who need the food over the weekend, when they are not receiving school meals.
Behrens said it started with a Blandin Community Leadership Program class that he went to in 2014.
“During those sessions, they ask you about different issues that are going on within your community,” he said, “and at the end of the week-long classes, you’re asked to pick a project that you can work on when you get back.”
The one Behrens picked was the backpack food program, which became known as the Food Angels. At that time, Blandin provided a grant to get it started, and the CHI St. Joseph’s Health Foundation agreed to handle the funds.
“We’re one of approximately 35 communities across the northwestern portion of Minnesota that have food delivered from North Country Food Bank,” Behrens said. “It’s for the weekend, so you’re typically trying to have two entrees, two breakfasts, two snacks and two things to drink.”
Community groups and businesses take turns packing two weekends’ worth of food bags every other Thursday at Riverside United Methodist Church. “That’s where we store the food,” he said.
Currently serving with him on the Food Angels committee are Lance Bagstad, Ben Koppelman, Mike Boettcher and Brandt.
“We’ve had great support from throughout the community,” said Behrens.
Donations to the backpack food program can be mailed to the Food Angels, c/o CHI St. Joseph’s Health Foundation, 600 Pleasant Ave. S., Park Rapids, MN 56470.